To Hear From There
As we’ve come to expect from trombonist/bandleader Wayne Wallace, the 11 selections on To Hear From There spotlight multiple rhythms, styles and eras within the framework of Latin jazz. Interestingly, Wallace’s compositions tend to be more exciting than his quintet’s explorations of classic pieces. Juan Tizol’s “Perdido,” despite a nice vocal turn by Washington, proves pleasant but lackluster. Likewise, Tito Puente’s “Philadelphia Mambo” accurately depicts the beat but loses some fire in the presentation.
Thankfully things pick up elsewhere. There’s a torrid cover of Gilberto Valdes’ “Ogguere (Soul of the Earth)”: Michael Spiro and Paul van Wageningen ably fortify the 6/8 groove, David Belove delivers an excellent bass solo and Wallace and pianist Murray Low contribute tight yet flashy solos. Some of Wallace’s finest trombone work can be heard on J.J. Johnson’s “Lament,” and guest vocalist Bobi Cespedes is sultry and dazzling during her brilliant lead vocal on Moises Simons’ “The Peanut Vendor (El Manicero).”
Still, the most aggressive playing, both collectively and individually, is in Wallace’s originals. Besides being showcases for his writing, they demonstrate his band’s mastery of intricate and unusual structures and Wallace’s compositional boldness. He smartly combines African, Latin and African-American influences on “Yemaya the Seven Seas,” employing multiple vocals in an arrangement that weaves between 4/4 and 7/4. The tribute to legendary Cuban pianist Bebo Valdés (“Bebo Ya Lego”) celebrates both Valdés’ legacy and the vibrant son form.
“Serafina Del Caribe” features a trombone choir, with Wallace, Jeff Cressman, Natalie Cressman and Dave Martell giving listeners snippets of New Orleans elements. But the set’s most joyous number is “Descarga En Blue,” a flat-out jam. The beats become more frenzied and Wallace, Low and Belove shift into overdrive. The band smoothly navigates the cha-cha-cha patterns of “Los Gatos,” with Wallace adopting a soothing, sentimental playing style.
This is a strong outing, and hopefully Wallace’s next disc will be an all-originals set. He’s an imaginative, gifted writer as well as an outstanding trombonist and bandleader.